Historical re-enacting and living history attempt to provide both educational and informational opportunities for a broad public audience. However, despite this reality, and possibly because of the complicated nature of recreating the past, this type of historical interpretation is not always appreciated or considered a viable option for explaining historical events. The articles for this week brought up many issues and concerns regarding the re-enacting of historical events and tried to shed light on the issues that have limited the success and approval of this form of history.
One of the issues that both Nick Kowalczyk and Ann M. Little mention in their articles revolves around the desire (or obsession?) to re-enact the traumatic and bloody experiences of war. How does recreating a war as a “G-rated” version trivialize the original event? And since there is so much emphasis on ending the wars the United States is currently involved in, how does the American public reconcile with re-enactors’ desires to commemorate past battles through recreation? I did think that it was notable that Little acknowledged that the re-enactors discussed in Kowalczyk’s article were not Civil War re-enactors, but rather the Seven Years War re-enactors. However, her discussion of this distinction was somewhat lackluster. In my experience, re-enactors of past wars approach their roles in similar ways, and their actions mimic each other. In other words, while their uniforms might be different, their desire to re-create battles is markedly similar. Aside from the limited conversations I have had with Corey, I do not know any other “war re-enactors.” I have, however, had the opportunity to meet Clay Jenkinson, who is an author and humanities scholar, and also a Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt “impersonator.” The work that Jenkinson does, mostly in the form of Q&A interviews while in “character,” provides a tangible and useful method of incorporating the ideologies and personal experiences of influential historic figures into current debates about a multitude of issues. I feel that the readings should have reflected the different means of re-enacting in order to reflect on this particular approach. Knowing that Jenkinson is an expert scholar on both Jefferson and Roosevelt, I consider the work that he does as an “impersonator” extremely useful, entertaining, and insightful for both academic and public audiences. I think this particular approach will replace battle re-enacting as the popular form of living history.
I have added some links to some of Jenkinson’s interviews and performance if anyone is interested.
As for Wikipedia….
Noam Cohen alludes to the problem of gender gaps within the larger community of Wikipedia contributors. I was under the assumption that because of the twenty-first century, digital nature of Wikipedia, the contributors would represent a more equal male/female ratio. I was obviously wrong. And while this particular article highlighted the problems of gender inequality in regard to Wikipedia, this is an issue that all women in the workforce are currently facing. Sheryl Sandberg, the current COO for Facebook, has stepped up as a crusader fighting for equal opportunities for women in the workforce. As part of a TED talks series from 2010, she mentioned multiple statistics that show that less than 15% of women are reaching high-level positions within any profession anywhere in the world. These numbers mimic the percentage of women contributors at Wikipedia. She goes on to explain that there are specific reasons why women are not making better strides in the workforce, and she encourages women to take risks, and reach for opportunities. I feel as though this approach is worth hearing, and if it is to be successful for women contributors at Wikipedia or for women in other professions, it must be attempted whole-heartedly.
If you are interested in hearing this TED talk, the link is below. I have also added some additional links regarding Sheryl Sandburg and her stance on this issue.